I love space and the space program – I was obsessed with the Apollo program and the space shuttle for a few years when I was a kid, and am still inspired by the thought of traveling to the stars.
Newt Gingrich has I think quite callously tried to appropriate that sense of wonder for his own ends – his promise to have a permanent base on the moon by eight years into his term WITHOUT RAISING NASA’S BUDGET is, on it’s face, ridiculous. I’d frankly be surprised if we could do it even with a massively increased budget – the scope of the project is just too large.
I’m currently working at a job involving satellite operations, and am daily amazed by just how difficult it is to operate just about anything in space. It took 8 years after JFK’s “Man on the moon” speech just to send a single mission – and that program was one of the most ambitious industrial program in history0. At its peak, NASA budget was 4% of the total Federal budget. NASA estimates that it would cost $170B in 2005 dolalrs to duplicate the Apollo mission – or nearly ten times the ENTIRE budget of NASA today to do LESS than what he’s promised (which is to establish an entire base on the moon).
I’m all for inspiration and would welcome an ambitious plan to go back to the moon or to Mars in the next decade or two – which is why it pisses me off that Gingrich is so transparently and callously using the space program as a political football.